‘We thought we would just be following the district nurse around’: Innovation in Australian student nursing placements in rural primary health care.


  • Carol Reid University of Melbourne
  • Dr Leanne M Kelly Deakin University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3360-5212
  • Mr L Stanbrook Victorian Department of Education and Training
  • Ms Trish Quibell




student placement, primary care, nurse education, school nurse, rural nursing


To understand primary health care practice, student nurse education requires opportunities to engage in authentic, person-in-environment interaction. This paper reviews an innovative student nurse placement model developed in rural Australia through a multidisciplinary partnership between a rural health service, a university, and the state governmental Department of Education and Training. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 12 student nurses at placement completion. Themes drawn out of the data collected were grounded in the participants’ opinions and experiences. The interview findings were grouped into six themes surrounding: (1) placement model, (2) identity, (3) autonomy, (4) interpersonal skills, (5) primary care, and (6) young people. Overall, student nurses gave positive feedback about the placement model and felt the experience contributed to their professional identity and autonomy as they transition to graduate roles. They self-reported strong indications that learning about the nuances and complexity of primary health care contributed to their practice skills. Investing in placement models such as the one presented in this paper is important to build capacity in the nursing workforce. Enabling an adaptable, responsive nursing profession is a critical area for further nurse education research and evaluation.

Author Biographies

Mr L Stanbrook, Victorian Department of Education and Training

Registered Nurse Division I, Manager School Nurse Program, East Division, Victoria

Ms Trish Quibell

Executive Director Research & Evaluation Priamry Care Connect